Sábado, 22 Setiembre, 2018

Parents say U.S. student released from North Korea is in coma

Irune Rengel | 14 Junio, 2017, 10:57

Otto Warmbier, a US university student held captive in North Korea for 17 months, has been released, but a former USA official said on Tuesday he is in a coma and in urgent need of medical care.

Warmbier, 22, went to North Korea on a group tour and was arrested January 2, 2016 as he prepared to depart from Pyongyang International Airport.

North Korean state-run media said early previous year that Warmbier was arrested for what they described as "a hostile act" against the regime.

But Warmbier is in a coma and his parents say he's been in that condition since March of 2016. The US Department of State's special representative for North Korea Joseph Yun and several doctors traveled to Pyongyang to escort Warmbier out of the country.

"Anyone who knows Dennis knows he's trying to use his relationship to open the line of communication and send a message of peace and understanding", said Rodman's longtime agent Darren Prince in a statement.

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Tillerson said the State Department secured Warmbier's release at the direction of President Donald Trump. The official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss intelligence and spoke anonymously, said there were concerns that Mr. Warmbier had died as a result of the beatings.

A North Korean foreign ministry official confirmed that Mr Warmbier had been released and had left the country on Tuesday morning. North Korea accuses Washington and South Korea of sending spies to overthrow its government.

It was not immediately clear if Rodman's visit was purely coincidental with Mr Warmbier's release. "We get to see our son Otto tonight", Mr Fred Warmbier said.

Three weeks later, North Korea announced it was holding him for a "hostile act" against the state.

Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. Swedish diplomats, who represent US interests in North Korea because the United States has no diplomatic relations with the country, were denied access to him. "We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him", the Warmbiers said in the statement.

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The news of Warmbier's release comes the same day as basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in Pyongyang for an expected four-night visit.

Americans are regarded as enemies in North Korea because the two countries never signed a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.

When asked if he would bring up the cases of Warmbier and three other Americans detained in North Korea, Rodman told reporters, "that's not my objective right now".

Detained Americans are frequently used as bargaining chips for the North Korean regime to gain legitimacy on the world stage or push for an easing of sanctions.

While North Korea's move to free Warmbier could potentially provide an opening for talks on security issues, the prospects still appear bleak. Before his previous trip to North Korea, Rodman appealed for the release of then-imprisoned US citizen Kenneth Bae.

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Rodman landed in Pyongyang Tuesday, hours before it released 23-year-old Otto Warmbier, who was serving a 15-year prison term - for trying to steal a propaganda banner from his hotel.

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